Life decisions are never easy, especially when they involve letting go of a comfortable job at an amazing company that has both a lego play area and a chef who makes you custom burritos.
So I did what any confused and slightly tipsy person would do, I shouted my thoughts to my Google Home and asked, “Hey Google, should I quit Google?” I expected the standard response, “Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that yet,” but my jaw dropped when she instead replied with one very simple word:
Her voice was calm and nonchalant. Sure. I was surprised by the answer but her carefree, nonjudgemental tone really struck a chord, as if she were saying, Sure, why not? And I thought to myself, yeah why not just quit? What was keeping me from pulling the trigger?
The first thing that popped into my head were the burritos from the 14th floor cafe. What would I do without those free burritos? Would I have to cook for myself? As I tried to fathom life without my beloved burrito station and subsisting off burnt eggs of my own creation, I understood that it was inertia that was holding me back, coupled with a fear of failing if I tried something new. I’ve been at Google as a Technical Solutions Engineer for almost 3 years now and I’ve really enjoyed my time here, but I also knew that at some point I wanted to travel on my own terms and have the freedom to explore different paths, even if they didn’t lead anywhere. And I’m at a unique point in my life where I can do just that — I am free to make my own choices because I have nothing and no one tying me down (except for those burritos). Also, I’d done a good job saving my income over the last few years, so I had the luxury of being financially comfortable without a paycheck for a while.
While contemplating my decision, I had been so focused on evaluating the reasons why I should quit that I forgot to flip the question around: why shouldn’t I quit? Leaving Google and my wonderful team would be hard, but I knew that if I denied myself the opportunity to travel and explore simply because I was afraid to take a risk, I would regret the latter far more. Fear and inertia are powerful feelings and as motivators of inaction, they often lead to regret. And as Jeff Bezos once said, looking back on my life, I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have.
As a computer scientist, I saw that my dilemma captured the essence of the classic exploration vs. exploitation tradeoff. And machine learning tells us that there is indeed value to exploration, to having new experiences, particularly when we’re young. In fact, it’s necessary for gathering new information and for learning. Suddenly, my desire to leave didn’t seem so crazy or irrational, it actually made sense.
So I quit my job at Google with nothing else lined up except for a backpack and a one way plane ticket.
[This post is written by Lakshmi Parthasarathy. It was first published here and has been reproduced with permission.]